Last Thursday we shared our Virtual PLUS+ attendance figures with the School Board. Our first data review found that 93% of all students had been online and engaged in at least 50% of their classes in the first week.
Among the missing seven percent, we will certainly have students who have moved away from our division over the summer without withdrawing from ACPS, and therefore we can safely assume our participation will increase once we have the adjusted enrollment numbers in the coming weeks.
What does this tell us? It tells us that across all grade levels, our students are coming to class. In these early days, as we establish virtual learning routines, this is a critical starting point. Our teachers have been incredible by providing inspiring and challenging instruction which is key to keeping our young people returning in these unusual circumstances.
Each week, we will collate this data for comparisons and analyze the trends emerging which will help inform our decisions and modifications to the program.
On Monday, September 21, our Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team met to discuss celebrations, challenges and recommendations for the first two weeks of Virtual PLUS+. This week, we will also be meeting with principals and the ACPS Senior Leadership Team to identify trends and common themes that were shared during this Virtual PLUS+ Learning Advisory Team Meeting. The goal is to share some of that feedback next week and discuss some of the potential adjustments as a result.
Today, you will find details of our preliminary discussions around the phased reentry of students to our school buildings for in-person learning. Families, staff and students will be surveyed starting Sept. 25. Along with guidance from the Alexandria Health Department and analysis compiled by our staff, we will use that survey data to help us make informed decisions about our next steps. These next steps are currently scheduled for an announcement in mid-October.
Last week the School Board voted to consider the possibility of changing the name of Matthew Maury Elementary School, in addition to that of our only high school. Please do not miss the opportunity to learn more during our first Community Read-In on these school name changes for what will now be known as The Identity Project. It is sure to be an educational, fascinating and enlightening event.
Stay safe, stay healthy, stay informed.
Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr.
Superintendent of Schools
Looking Ahead: Planning for the Transition Back into our Schools
As we outlined in our Virtual PLUS+ Continuity of Learning Plan (PDF), at the end of the first quarter and afterward every seven weeks we will reassess whether it is safe and feasible to reopen our school buildings to students. We will be sharing an update on this during the School Board meeting on Oct. 15.
Discussions are currently underway about how we might consider bringing our students who attend our citywide special education programs — some of our most vulnerable students — back into our schools for some in-person learning opportunities.
This month, we surveyed our preK-2 Specialized Instruction staff and have been examining in detail the processes and protocols that would be necessary for both staff and students to stay safe. This includes looking at social distancing requirements, the requirement to wear masks, special cleaning processes, transportation, nutritional needs and staffing numbers.
We are also having discussions about our youngest learners, especially our students in pre-K through grade 2. We are aware of issues around transition times and are working on some solutions to ensure greater success for our youngest students.
We have gathered a team of 194 teachers who are providing invaluable input on feasible next steps. Next week, we will be surveying our staff and families to hear more directly about their experiences.
Our goal is to present our findings, along with input from the Alexandria Health Department, to the School Board on October 15, 2020 as part of our reentry reevaluation process. This will allow a two to three week window for families to make any needed accommodations or adjustments before we begin the next semester on Nov. 3, 2020.
How the First Week Looked
Last Thursday, we shared our Virtual PLUS+ attendance figures with the School Board.
- Our first data review found that 93% of all students had been online and engaged in at least 50% of their classes in the first week.
- Our Virtual PLUS+ Helpline received 2,367 calls in the first week of operation. Of those calls, 1,851 were from families who speak a language other than English.
- Our School Nutrition Services team provided more than 32,000 free meals in the first week of school. Food insecurity is real. As a reminder, these free meals are available for ALL children aged 2-18, no matter their family income and no matter if they are an ACPS student.
Board Votes to Consider Matthew Maury Name Change
Following a petition of more than 100 signatures, the School Board voted on Sept. 18 to begin the public engagement process to consider renaming Matthew Maury Elementary School.
Matthew Maury, known as the “Father of Modern Oceanography and Naval Meteorology” for his contributions to charting winds and ocean currents, including ocean lanes for passing ships at sea, was also a member of the Confederate army. He helped acquire a ship for the Confederacy while advocating to end the war in America.
The review of the elementary school’s name will run alongside the process to consider changing the name of T.C. Williams High School, under the shared banner of The Identity Project.
The School Board is expected to vote on these name changes by December 2020.
Community Read-Ins Begin this Week
Please consider joining us tomorrow at 6 p.m. for the first in a series of “Read-Ins” which will help set the scene for a full, frank and informed community discussion about school name changes.
We are getting started with our robust public community engagement process which will begin with our community education and engagement program around the possibility of changing the name of T.C. Williams High School and Matthew Maury Elementary School.
We are critically aware that there is a pressing need in our schools, our community and our nation to find ways to talk about race constructively and respectfully. One of the ways that we can move forward is by acknowledging our own history, while refusing to allow that history to define who we currently are as a school division in the present.
We are delighted that Dr. Douglas S. Reed, professor of government and director of the MA Program in Educational Transformation at Georgetown University, has agreed to host these read-ins. Dr. Reed is the author of Building the Federal Schoolhouse, a highly regarded historical account of public schooling in Alexandria. He will be joined by Kennetra Wood, ACPS Executive Director of Alternative Programs and Equity, who has spearheaded our program to teach racial justice to our students and will play a critical role in shedding light on how the history of ACPS is impacting present programs.
This series of read-ins will focus on Alexandria’s history to provide context for the name change discussion that our students, staff and community will be having over the coming months. The series will offer an opportunity to consider and discuss how Thomas Chambliss Williams’ actions reveal the man he was, the role our city leaders played in the fight against integration, and the civil strife percolating across the city at the time of the Titans victorious 1971 season.
All three read-ins will be offered in English with real time translation in Spanish, Arabic and Amharic.
The series will also be recorded and made available on the Community Read-ins page of the ACPS website.
Read-In #1: Thomas Chambliss Williams, the Superintendent
Sept. 24, 6-7 p.m. on Zoom
Dr. Douglas S. Reed will present from his book, Building the Federal School House and discuss ACPS Superintendent Thomas Chambliss Williams.
At the first read-in of the series, Dr. Reed will speak about seminal moments in the career of T.C. Williams — from the firing of a cafeteria worker to his stubborn resistance to integration, and his use of special education to further segregate Alexandria’s students — actions that reveal the man behind the name and title. ACPS Executive Director of Equity and Alternative Programs Kennetra Wood will co-host and identify ties to systemic racism rooted in our system. There will be a short question and answer period following the discussion.
Join us on Zoom.
Please note the time change (7-8 p.m.) for the second Read-in on Oct. 1, 2020.
Check Out How Our Students Are Thriving With Alternative Outdoor Learning Labs
Across the City of Alexandria, innovative ways to combine child care and education are popping up.
We visited the Alexandria Soccer Association’s Learning Labs last week to see how ACPS students and families are finding alternative settings to facilitate Virtual PLUS+.
Underneath individual blue canopies, positioned on a sidewalk overlooking the baseball field at George Washington Middle School, dozens of students sat wearing headphones while focusing on class. Not a sound could be heard.
To one side, a sign read “ASA School+, an outdoor learning lab” behind which was a table with markers, pens, pencils, board games — and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
For anyone driving down Mount Vernon Avenue these days, this scene of outdoor schooling is hard to miss.
“I like being here,” said Mount Vernon Community School first grader Johanna Weisbecker, although she admitted she missed being home with her cat, Huckleberry.
Free Food Distribution for All Children: Now starting at 7:30 a.m.
Starting today, Wednesday, Sept. 23, food distribution will begin at 7:30 a.m. rather than 8:00 a.m. The shift to a slightly earlier start time is in response to feedback from our families.
As a reminder, the United States Department of Agriculture and Virginia Department of Education have announced that their free meal program will continue through Dec. 31, 2020.
ALL children, aged 2-18, whether they are a registered student with ACPS or not, will have access to free meals via ACPS food distribution sites throughout the fall through this effective continuation of the summer feeding program.
See more information about our food distribution program.
Talented and Gifted (TAG) Program Identification Update Under the Virtual PLUS+ model
During Virtual PLUS+, students referred for TAG during the first semester will create a digital portfolio. These portfolios will include samples of the student’s work that are selected by both the teachers and students to showcase the student’s strengths. When we return to in-person learning, additional assessment data will be available to complete the evaluations.
New referrals from parents, community members, teachers, and students are being accepted until the end of the second quarter, Jan. 28, 2021. See the TAG Referral form.
Please contact TAG coordinator Donna Brearley at firstname.lastname@example.org with any additional questions.
Facilities Work During COVID-19
Last Thursday, the School Board received a summary of the facilities work that has been completed or is in progress during the COVID-19 pandemic. ACPS has taken advantage of our empty buildings to accelerate facilities repairs and upgrades where possible. Watch the School Board presentation.
The School Board will hold a virtual public hearing on the FY 2022-2031 Capital Improvement Program (CIP) and the FY 2022 Combined Funds Budgets at the School Board meeting held on Oct. 1, 2020 at 4 p.m. The deadline to sign up to speak at the Budget Public Hearing or submit written public comments is noon on Sept. 30, 2020. For more information, please contact the Clerk of the Board at 703-619-8316 or by email at email@example.com.
Community Engagement Opportunity on Future Facility Projects
For the past year, ACPS and the City of Alexandria have been collaborating on a plan for future school facility needs.
The Joint City-ACPS Facilities Master Plan will lay out a clear road map which will tackle the needs of a growing student population and an aging infrastructure, in addition to other major projects in our city.
As part of the community engagement process, ACPS families are being invited to view a presentation and then participate in a survey to assess understanding of why these capital improvement projects are necessary, and also to get feedback.
Please email any questions to Erika Gulick, ACPS director of capital programs, planning & design at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Katherine Carraway, City of Alexandria urban planner, Department of Planning and Zoning at 703-746-3855.
Honoring Constitution Week
Superintendent Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. delivered remarks at a virtual version of the City’s annual Constitution Week event last week. Mayor Justin Wilson proclaimed September 17-23 as Constitution Week in the City of Alexandria.
Watch video of the superintendent and the Mayoral proclamation along with archival footage of students from Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy, Douglas MacArthur Elementary School, and the T.C. Williams High School Choir.
The Multilingual Family Helpline is Open!
If you have questions or need support on any aspect of Virtual PLUS+, you can now text or call the multilingual Virtual PLUS+ Helpline.
Our team of 15 staff are available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday to help you get answers to your questions about:
- social, emotional or academic support
- child care options
- food access
For English: Call 703-844-1763
For Spanish: Call 703-844-3424
For Arabic: Call 703-927-7095
For Amharic: Call 703-927-6866
Have questions? Email email@example.com.
ACPS has multiple distribution meal site locations throughout Alexandria for all ACPS students and children over the age of two.
GRAB-AND-GO MEAL LOCATIONS:
Grab and Go breakfast and lunch meals are available Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 7:30 a.m. and 12 p.m. at the following locations:
- William Ramsay Elementary School
5700 Sanger Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22311
- Francis C. Hammond Middle School
4646 Seminary Road, Alexandria, VA 22304
- Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
3600 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
- Jefferson-Houston PreK-8 IB School
1501 Cameron Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
- Mount Vernon Community School
2601 Commonwealth Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22305
- NEW! Patrick Henry K-8 School
4643 Taney Avenue, Alexandria, VA 22304
- T.C. Williams High School
3330 King Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
And available on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at our “Pop-Up” sites located at:
- Mason Apartments at 75 South Reynolds Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Brent Place Apartments at 375 South Reynolds Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
11:20 to 11:50 a.m.
- Ruby Tucker Family Center at 322 Tancil Court, Alexandria, VA 22314
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Community Lodgings at 607 Notabene Drive, Alexandria, VA 22305
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Old Towne West Apartments (parking lot) at 500 South Alfred Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
11:20 to 11:50 a.m.
- Corner of Florence Drive and Four Mile Road, Alexandria, VA 22305
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- The Fields at 4309 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22304
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
- Bennington Crossing Apartments at 441 North Armistead Street, Alexandria, VA 22312
11:30 a.m. to noon
- 2727 Duke Street (behind Bank of America), Alexandria, VA 22314
10:45 to 11:15 a.m.
NO SIGN UP OR REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED TO RECEIVE MEALS. Meals consist of breakfast and lunch, and include, for example, fresh fruits and vegetables and sandwiches for multiple days.
NOTE: No food distribution will occur on Tuesdays or Thursdays. The limited days for distribution is to support the practice of social distancing and to limit social gatherings. Meals for two days will be provided on Mondays and Wednesdays, and meals for three days will be provided on Fridays.
Other Food Resources in the City of Alexandria:
For food pantry locations and schedules in Alexandria, visit www.hungerfreealexandria.com or call 703-662-1067.
Questions? Or Need Translation?
Send us your question in Spanish, Arabic or Amharic:
- Text ACPSMEALS to 797979 (English and Spanish)
- Call or text 703-927-6866 (Amharic)
- Call or text 703-927-7095 (Arabic)
Call the FACE Center’s Bilingual Parent Information Lines, available Monday-Friday, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.:
- For Spanish/English, call 571-775-9719
- For Amharic/English, call 703-927-6866
- For Arabic/English, call 703-927-7095
SAFETY REMINDER: Please remember to observe social distancing practices while at the food distribution site by maintaining six feet of personal space between you and other families or individuals.
Anyone exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory illness like fever, runny nose, sore throat, coughing or difficulty breathing on the day of food distribution or in the previous 24 hours should not visit a food distribution site but call a health care provider instead. If you do not have a primary care physician and are not enrolled in a clinic, you may CALL an urgent care center or emergency room.
TEEN WELLNESS CENTER IS OPEN
The Teen Wellness Center at T.C. Williams is open regular hours Monday through Friday for all Alexandrians ages 12-19. All services are provided in the clinic and if the teen is ill with an elevated temperature (100.0 or more) we will see them through our telehealth video format. Make an appointment over the phone by calling 703-746-4776.
UPDATES FROM THE ALEXANDRIA HEALTH DEPARTMENT
The City of Alexandria and the Alexandria Health Department strongly urge everyone to follow state orders to STAY HOME except for essential trips such as food purchases and medical care, and keep 6 feet apart from others when in public. Your neighbors and loved ones are counting on you to stop the spread of COVID-19. For other questions about COVID-19, call the Alexandria COVID-19 Hotline at 703-746-4988, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Additional updates can be found at www.alexandriava.gov/Coronavirus.
Coping with COVID-19 Fear and Uncertainty
MENTAL HEALTH SUPPORT
Continuity of School Support and Academic Advisement
School Student Support Team staff, including school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, and school social workers will be available during school hours throughout the closure. Monday — Friday between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. staff will be connecting with students and their families. The Department of Student Services, Alternative Programs and Equity staff members are also available during this time and can be contacted by voicemail and at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If there is a crisis or emergency during the time of the closure, students and families can access the supports below:
- Crisis Text and Crisis Link:
- Text: CONNECT to 85511
- Call: 703-527-4077
- Alexandria Safe Place
- Alexandria City 24-Hour Emergency Mental Health Services
- Alexandria City Health Department and AHD Contacts
- Inova Alexandria Hospital (ER)
We know that this is a challenging time. ACPS will continue to share information through the ACPS website, social media, and email. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to your student’s school counselor or school social worker with any questions.
Don’t Feel Well?
Contact your primary health care physician. Don’t have insurance? Contact Neighborhood Health at 703-535-5568.
Have questions, concerns or feedback? Contact us.
Wash your hands regularly. Regular soap is OK.